Ethics refers to questioning whether something is right or wrong; to complete ethical research, one must ask themselves if it is “right” to conduct their chosen research, and follow certain guidelines (Fraenkel, Wallen & Hyun, 2012). According to The Panel on Research Ethics (TCPS2), there are three core principals of ethics that protect human rights, including respect for persons, concern for welfare, and justice (Government of Canada, 2011). In Canada, the institutional review board that approves research projects has established an online tutorial that is mandatory for potential researchers to complete in order to gain approval for their research.
Ethical considerations in research are integral numerous reasons. First, ethics are designed to protect participants form harm. By adhering to ethical guidelines, a researcher is reminded to consider possible exposure to risk that may occur in their study (Fraenkel, Wallen & Hyun, 2012). It also prompts a researcher to obtain informed consent. Second, ethics ensure confidentiality precautions have been incorporated into the design of the study. Confidentiality in regards to data collection, and access to that data, needs to be ensured to by the researcher (Fraenkel, Wallen & Hyun, 2012). Third, ethics address the concern of participant deception. In all research, whenever possible, deception should be avoided (Fraenkel, Wallen & Hyun, 2012). Ehtics require the researcher to consider if deception can be avoided, and if not, it requires the researcher to disclose the deception with an explanation as to why to explain the course of action.
When adhering to ethical guidelines, there are several requirements that must be met. The TCPS2 tutorial outlines these concisely. First, the researcher must asses the risks and benefits of the research to participants. By assessing risk, the researcher looks to ensure that participants are not exposed to unavoidable risk, and can evaluate if the potential benefits will outweigh those anticipated risks. The probability, magnitude, and level of risk must be factored into the assessment (Government of Canada, 2011). Second, the researcher must acquire proper consent. There are three general principals of consent, which include free, informed, and ongoing (Government of Canada, 2011). Consent must be documented, and a debriefing must occur in situations were deception is used. Third, privacy and confidentiality in the research study must be ensured. Information linking to a participant’s identity will not be linked to other information or made available to others without their consent, being stored in a secure location until the end of the study and then subsequently destroyed. The Research Ethics Board (Government of Canada, 2011) provides many options to researchers on how to approach the subject of identification. Secondary use of data can be applied under certain circumstances, but strict guidelines must be met before this can proceed. Fourth, fairness and equity must be ensured. To do this, the researcher must identify and take into consideration possible vulnerable circumstances, and inclusion and exclusion criteria. Last, the research must avoid, or limit, any conflicts of interest. Real or perceived conflicts of interest must be determined and eliminated, or reduced if unavoidable. The REB provides several strategies on how to approach conflicts of interest (Government of Canada, 2011).
All research involving human participants, animals or biohazards must be reviewed receive approval before research can begin. Luckily, a Research Ethics Board is located at the University of Calgary in Research Services, which will be helpful for me. For my research project, I will be using the Conjoint Faculties Research Ethics Board (CFREB) as this board approves research with human participants in a non-medical environment (University of Calgary, 2013).
In summary, ethics are important because they hold the researcher accountable to adhering to participant safety and research clarity, while conducting a study that is honest and maintains a high level of integrity to the research process.
Fraenkel, J., Wallen, N. & Hyun, H. (2011). How to design and evaluate research in education. 8th edition. New York: McGraw-Hill.
Government of Canada, Panel on Ethics Research (2011). TCPS 2: CORE. Retrieved from http://tcps2core.ca/.
University of Alberta, Research Services (2013). Ethics Support. Retrieved from http://www.ucalgary.ca/research/ethics.